Thursday, March 28, 2013

Surrounded By Books

by Ross Wagenhofer

Some of the books in the Godine office.

I think there may be something about living and sleeping in close proximity to the books one owns. Throughout my life I always have. In my childhood home, in the room where I spent part of my life growing up, there are three bookshelves that hold around 300 various books. The largest bookshelf in the room stands in the corner, and is filled primarily with the books I collected from my readings during middle and high school – lots of Stephen King, Tom Clancy, John Grisham, and Michael Chrichton, although the top two shelves exhibit my changing tastes as I grew up and discovered golden-era science fiction, WWII stories, and a few of the classics.

Across the room stands an equally tall bookshelf, only three of the six shelves devoted to books (the top three contain a meager CD collection, a framed photo of Stevie Nicks, and a Tom Petty vinyl). Among the books on this bookshelf are a hodge-podge of comic books, books of trivia, three Bibles, the entirely of the Left Behind series (of which I was briefly a fan) and things I've never really got around to reading. 

The third bookshelf in the room is a three-shelf unit I purchased from Wal-Mart and assembled myself. I bought it after my freshman year of college to accommodate all the textbooks and novels I had accumulated during that year. It's now completely full of books, many of them the heavy tomes often read in survey courses, and is leaning to the right as a result of my poor carpentry skills.
Now that I live in my own apartment, I have stopped sending my books home and instead have begun keeping them in my (small) place. There’s a communal bookshelf that I plucked for free from the side of the road in my living room, but I only have the use of two if its shelves. There’s another small stack of books I attempted to place decoratively on an end table. The rest of the books I own are in my tiny room.

Table, books, and Auden the teddy bear.
I’m neither especially organized nor disorganized, and although I now have a tendency just to make stacks of books as I purchase them, they’re neat stacks. Neat as in they stand up straight, not that there’s any organizing principle about what goes where. I have eight stacks in total, although one is approaching “tower” status and should probably be broken up. After I used up all the room on top of my dresser and small table, I had to resort to just using the floor. All my magazines and the books and research articles I’m using for my honors thesis reside there. Soon to join them will probably be the novels I’m currently reading for class.

A view of my stacks from the bed.
It wouldn’t be particularly difficult to go on Craigslist and find a bookshelf small enough to fit in my room. As it so happens, the location where I have bought and continue to buy a large portion of the books that end up in piles in my room also sells bookshelves (Boomerangs on Centre Street – the finest used book selection of any thrift store I’ve ever encountered). But I’ve found there’s a real charm in literally being surrounded by the books I own. Until I live in a home with a dedicated library room, I’m content with shoving my volumes to fit in my bedroom. I can see them from where I sleep.
I’m interested to know how others of you store your books, especially people like me with minuscule-to-small-apartments. Do others stack their books as they get them? Or do you feel that books deserve a library? Share with us by tweeting @GodinePub, sharing a picture of your library on Pinterest, or commenting below!

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